‘Hard times create strong men... weak men create hard times’
If you like your memes to be ironic, you're probably at the end of the civilisational cycle
‘Group feeling and courage weaken. Members of the tribe revel in the wellbeing that God has given them... They have disdain also for all the other things that are necessary in connection with group feeling... Their group feeling and courage decrease in the next generations, eventually group feeling is altogether destroyed.’
So wrote the great philosopher Ibn Khaldun, born on this day in 1332 in Tunis, outlining a theory of history that has come to be called the Asabiyyah Cycle. Even if you may not have heard of Abu Zayd ‘Abdu r-Rahman bin Muhammad bin Khaldun Al-Hadrami al-Ishbili — to give him his full name — or read his great work The Muqaddimah, you may well recognise the meme that indirectly comes from his work, via a sci-fi author: ‘Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.’ Indeed the meme is well known enough that you’ve probably seen it used mostly with irony — but then irony is the great symptom of decadence, the final stage of the asabiyyah cycle.
In his lifetime Ibn Khaldun served as court official, ambassador and supreme justice, travelling across the Islamic Mediterranean from southern Spain to Arabia, before eventually coming to reside in Egypt, where he died in 1406. But it was in a period of intense activity away from the trials of court in 1377 that he wrote his great work of history, economics, science and sociology. Jonathan Sacks, the former British chief rabbi, said of Ibn Khaldun that ‘Not for another 300 years would the West produce a figure of comparable originality.’